Venue update: Step 2 (15 person) weddings in England
The following was the situation as of 18th March 2021.
The guidance has been updated since and you can read the latest information here.
Where can 15 person weddings take place?
From 12th April, weddings and receptions will only be permitted in places of worship, public buildings and outdoor settings that are already permitted to open which does not include the large majority of the UK’s licensed wedding venues where 71% of weddings typically take place. See the UK Weddings Taskforce press release here
Almost the entire wedding industry interpreted paragraph 118 in the Roadmap as allowing for weddings and receptions of up to 15 people in Step 2. Venues and Registrars have accepted 100s of wedding bookings between 12th April and 17th May as a result. Without further clarification, but with assurance that guidance would be loosely based on pre-lockdown restrictions, the assumption was that weddings “will be able to take place with up to 15 attendees (in premises that are permitted to open)” meant that wedding venues are effectively being added to the list of premises in para 110 permitted to open.
Eg. the fact that weddings “will be able to take place” means that wedding venues are therefore, “permitted to open”.
However, the DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) who look after the guidance for large events, have now advised that weddings are possible from 12 April, but only if they are held in “venues which are legally allowed to open” which they clarify as being certain public buildings and community centres. Places of worship are already allowed to open. This means that the majority of wedding venues are not able to host weddings or receptions before Step 3, from 17th May at the earliest.
The wording of the clarified guidance raises yet more questions, specifically relating to those venues that are permitted to open for a specific purpose; can hotels that are open for business visitors host a wedding? Can weddings be held in conference venues? Or on a working farm? As churches and other places of worship can open for wedding ceremonies could you host your reception there too, or are they specifically open for worship?
Advice has been equally confusing on venue viewings. BEIS (Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy) who look after guidance on hospitality, advised on 23rd February, following the Roadmap announcement, that although venue showrounds aren’t permitted before 12th April, there was a strong case for them being permitted from 29th March. We were all awaiting that decision.
DCMS, meanwhile, have advised that “Viewing wedding venues would not be a legally permitted excuse to leave your home at the moment. The ‘Stay at Home’ restrictions will be lifted from 29 March, at which point people can visit venues which are legally allowed to open. Further venues, including indoor heritage sites, will open at Step 3 (from 17 May at the earliest). Employees of wedding venues are currently permitted to visit a closed venue where reasonably necessary for work, including for the purpose of filming a promotional video of the venue, as well as taking measures to prepare for reopening.”
Under this guidance it would mean that venue viewings can only take place from 17th May in the majority of venues.
The government have repeatedly been asked to clarify their wedding guidance since 22nd February. The UK Weddings Taskforce met with Paul Scully and BEIS on 17th March to ask that they reconsider their guidance, and to ask for absolute clarity. There are still more questions than answers.
As ever, we will be urging couples to speak to their venue and suppliers before making any decisions, as they will be the best placed to advise their own on whether there is a chance that Step 2 weddings can go ahead there, however until there is more clarity it is hard for venues to know exactly what is permitted.
Registrars have been telling couples that they will accept bookings in venues that have confirmed they are permitted to open. Our advice to venues is to check with your Local Authority if you’re not sure, however for now, they will be working from the same ambiguous guidance.
We have been assured that the full guidance will be published next week and that this will also cover marquee wedding receptions. Hopefully, that will be better news for the industry.